Hello readers! Welcome to the 37th edition of my niche website update.
I want to break from my traditional format for this post to discuss my future intentions with niche site development. After this post, I’ll be relaxing how often I publish these updates, and for good reason.
I must confess that since last year, there has been a small leak in my ambition for this project. I have not really had the same ferocity that I previously set forth with my niche site collection.
I enjoy thinking them up. I enjoy writing and creating them. I enjoy building them. I really enjoy the revenue. But then, it seems, I hit a wall. I very big brick wall.
Throughout 2015 for these niche sites, I noticed month after month that income was down, rankings were slipping, and each of them just wasn’t going in the direction I had hoped. And all of this despite my best efforts to revive them with new strategies, fresh content, new links, new themes, a new “feel”, etc.
In business, all products have a life-cycle. The record player gets replaced with tapes, which then gets replaced with CD’s, then mp3’s, then steaming, etc. Perhaps these websites have simply outlived their utility. Perhaps all the visitors that ever came to them digested the content and then moved on in search of the next best thing. What’s significant on the Internet today is much, much shorter than we realize, and to stay in that position it’s a constant struggle.
To be it bluntly, I’ve been feeling like when it comes to where to go next with these sites, I’m simply spinning my wheels; like I’m running faster and harder on a treadmill, ultimately going nowhere. That’s not really fair or of any value to my readers. Readers deserve to find the answers to questions they are looking for. And for that reason, I’ll be happy to write another one of these updates as soon as I have something useful to you to digest.
At the present, my interests now lie with new projects. As I mentioned in this post here, there are some topics that I feel very passionate about and would like to explore further; whether that be as a new website, ebooks, or some combination of both! The spark to create isn’t dead, it’s just taking a new form.
My Misadventures with Empire Flippers
I do have one major event with my niche sites that I have to address before these updates go on hiatus. In my last update, I gave the big news that I was in the process of working with the Empire Flippers to sell niche website #1 (NS1).
How can I sum up the experience?
I know, right? This was completely unexpected after years of following the Empire Flippers blog and having so much respect for them.
So why this conclusion? To sum it up: After 4 weeks of messing around with their agents, I was abruptly dropped as a client and left right back at square 1 where I started.
Here’s the whole story:
From my very first email with the Empire Flippers, I had one very important concern in mind:
If I sold NS1, how would this affect my current and future personal finance productions?
Often in website sales, the buyer will ask for a non-compete agreement with the seller so that the seller doesn’t go creating a copy-cat website that will contend with the site they just sold.
NS1 is a website in the retirement planning niche. As you already know from reading this website (or my ebooks), writing about personal finance and early retirement is kinda my thing. I certainly did NOT want to put myself in a position where I would no longer be able to write and publish content in this field. Therefore, I had no intentions of signing a non-compete clause.
Empire Flippers assured me this would not be a problem.
And so I proceeded to have my website listed.
Things seemed to be going smoothly from there. The listing agent and I agreed on a price, and I asked (several times) to please be allowed to see the final listing text before it went live to the potential buyers. My goal was to, again, make sure that there was some language in there about my other websites, my future writing intentions, and the fact that I would not be willing to sign a non-compete clause.
There appeared to be delay after delay with Empire Flippers showing me the listing. I would ask, and then be told that we’ll “get to it next week”. I had to start writing some very assertive emails to them expressing my position, and that caused the listing agent to contact me directly by phone.
When the two of us spoke, I again expressed my concern about my other websites, my future plans for more personal finance writing, and the fact that I would not want to sign a non-compete. I was assured everything was understood, told I would see the listing before it went live, and that everything would be okay.
… It wasn’t …
Afterwards, the listing went live without my approval. NS1 sold within a few days, and guess what I promptly received?
An email from Empire Flippers asking me to sign a non-compete!
Now my blood was boiling. Here I had been nothing but forthcoming and honest about them about my other websites and intentions, and somehow they managed to make a huge mess of it. I wrote a pretty strong email them referencing my past communications and re-affirming my refusal to not sign the non-compete.
Again I was contacted by phone by the listing agent. He acknowledged that this mistake and all the miscommunication was to the fault of Empire Flippers, and together we worked out some solutions where we could potentially move forward with the sale and not sign a non-compete.
At the end of the phone call, I felt good. I felt like maybe there was still some sliver of a chance that we could end this story with a positive outcome.
… Boy, was I wrong …
The next day I abruptly received this email.
… “can’t make exceptions to this rule”? What rule? Since when is this a rule? Again, this whole time, I had been very clear about my intentions, other websites, and plans to create more websites / eBooks in the future within this niche. If there was ever a “rule”, why in the world then was the listing ever allowed to take place?
Needless to say, I was very disappointed. I had now messed around with Empire Flippers for several weeks only to find myself right back at where I started, empty-handed.
The only silver lining: They did refund my initial $297 deposit. This would have been a very different post if they hadn’t.
So where does all of this leave us?
I tend to look at things from a “maybe this is for the better” perspective. Perhaps now is the wrong time to sell NS1, and maybe it’s for the best that I hold on to it for a little while longer. I, of course, will appreciate the extra income and link power that the website generates, and maybe in a few months I can again try to sell the site through another platform.
I would also like to conclude by saying I still have a great amount of respect for the Empire Flippers business. Over the years they have created something that I’m sure a lot of us would love to have. I truly believe that the misfortunes I experienced were probably due to the isolated actions of a few individuals rather than a reflection of the business as a whole.
Featured image courtesy of Flickr – Next TwentyEight
Matthew Allen says
That’s a bummer with the whole Empire Flippers deal… I never even would have thought about the non-compete clause. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything mentioned about this as it pertains to website sales until now. I wonder if you could have got around that by promising not to create any new properties targeting the same keywords – but explain that you already have an existing blog that already has articles on similar topics.
Also – how would they even know about your other sites unless you volunteered the information?
I’m going to miss the niche site updates. But I completely understand where you are coming from. My own niche site growth isn’t exactly where I thought it would be either… But I’m still pushing forward at least with my ONE site and doing other things (FBA) in the meantime to try to hit my internet riches.
Wishing you well in whatever you do! – Matt
Thanks Matt! You’ve always had a lot of great tips and advice for my niche sites over the years. I wish you success as well with your ONE site.
It was me that offered up all the information about my other sites. I didn’t want it to become an issue and bite me later on. I too thought the promise to not make an similar sites should have been sufficient, especially in the price range my website was selling for. After the website sold and I had that big talk with the listing agent, it really seemed like that was going to be a great compromise. Then I was suddenly dropped as a client, so I guess I was wrong!
Lance Cothern says
Have you tried getting in touch with J$? He may have some interested parties he knows.
Good tip! Perhaps I’ll hit him up next. Thanks Lance!
Sorry to hear about your experiences with Empire Flippers. At least they made things right as best they could. It didn’t turn into another iPage incident. At least the passive income from NS1 is yours for a little while longer.
Also, sorry to see your niche site updates going. I actually think you should continue them. They tell an honest story to potential bloggers and website developers. Many people like myself are turned off by Pat Flynn’s numbers as they are not something that could be realistically duplicated. Your numbers told the more realistic side of the story and showed that it wasn’t a game of pennies vs millions. And last year, they showed that it’s possible for those numbers to go down over time, illustrating what could happen if someone assumed that passive income could be kept up with zero maintenance (not that you did that, but that wake up call is there nonetheless).
I hope that you do revive your monthly updates soon. Perhaps you just need that fire back.
ARB–Angry Retail Banker
Thanks ARB. I hope they don’t go away completely either. I think as long as have my niche websites, there will be some story to tell. I just feel like I need more than one month to pass now before I have enough interesting things to tell about it.
You touched on exactly what I was hoping to do with these updates: Share my journey no matter how rocky it got. I too get discouraged by the Pat Flynn’s and nameless other internet marketers who claim to spend 30 minutes per month on a site and make $10,000 (or whatever ridiculous claim). If anything I hope people realize that 1) it’s possible to make money on the Internet but 2) it’s not as easy as people make it seem. I’m also hoping that I can find success with a few of the new projects I have in mind, and then publish those case studies for your benefit as well.
Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says
Thanks for sharing your experience with Empire Flippers, MMD. My friends are completely satisfied provided by the Empire. I agree with you that this must be an isolated case. I just hope that everything turns out well in the end. Good luck MMD.
I agree Jayson. Any time you are a business with employees, that’s an opportunity for one of them to screw-up. Perhaps my case was just one of those screw-ups.
Wow – let me start off by apologizing. I spent some time reviewing this issue with our team today to dig into how exactly we dropped the ball here.
As you now know, we dropped the ball in our first communication with you where we told you, “Yes, we can include that clause”. We do not allow sellers to sell their site to our buyers and immediately turn around and create site(s) in the exact same niche targeting the exact same keywords/customers. This policy is a must – it would be too easy for sellers to simply turn around and directly compete, potentially hurting the site they just sold to the buyer.
It was my understanding that our Listing Manager spoke to you on the phone and clarified that we’d get your listing up without reviewing it first and you agreed. If that’s not the case it was definitely a miscommunication on our end. The buyer sent the money so quickly that there wasn’t much time between listing/selling as well.
In any event, I can see how frustrated you’d be after being told one thing and then hearing another down the road. I just wanted to stop by, clarify our policy, and let you know personally.
Thank you for the reply Justin. I’ve been a big fan of Empire Flippers and your blog for a long time. I thought for sure listing my site with your service would be a home run, so you can imagine my surprise as we continued to hit snag after snag throughout the process. I understand your need for this policy, and wish your teammates had expressed this to me right from the beginning instead of at the very last step.
Just for clarification regarding the Listing Manager, I recall the conversation that you are referring to. I always maintained that I wanted to see the listing. Although he could not send me the official URL, he had agreed to send me, at a minimum, screen shots or text of the listing. However, even with this compromise, he failed to deliver.
MMD, I was moved by the quote in the picture. Today is really the best time to do it. No more procrastination!